Infected, transformed and destroyed bodies appear regularly in the horror genre: The Walking Dead, True Blood etc.
Our fears are often fueled by the uncanny otherness of the monster – a familiar figure transformed or possessed and made unrecognizable. The HIV-positive body becomes reduced to its potential to transmit risk.
Ultimately, infection films play with notions of communication and community – can a way of life, or society be protected or quarantined against an external invader? The advent of AIDS coalesced cultural fears around otherness, sexual danger and the tensions between nature and science.
That’s the premise of Karen Herland’s presentation at The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies.
Herland spoke to Towleroad about the origins of her lecture: “I did a lot of AIDS activism in the late 80s and early 90s, and later worked in ASOs and community groups with sex workers here in Montreal. Eventually, I started teaching at Concordia university. My course Framing the Prostitute looks at how, as a society, we have used sex workers as a screen to project our anxieties about sexuality, gender, intertwining them with assumptions about race, class and contagion. I also teach an interdisciplinary course of HIV/AIDS, exploring the contradictions, gaps and challenges in how we have responded to the crisis.
Parallel to this, I have always been interested in pop culture, and how these social anxieties appear in fiction and film. I got involved in Montreal’s Miskatonic Institute years ago. I am currently a co-director of Montreal’s Monstrum society. Blood Born is an exploration of how these worlds collide, how social anxieties about infection were triggered by the advent of AIDS and how encouraging people to fear the monster in (instead of under) their beds allowed so many people to ignore the real horror of HIV/AIDS – government indifference, neglect and stigma.”
Herland says she fell in with a bad crowd with a taste for horror at a young age. “Currently, my research focuses on the social and cultural construction and marginalization of bodies considered threatening or challenging to traditional norms.”
She is a Co-Director of Montreal’s Monstrum Society and sits on the Monstrum Journal’s editorial board. She has taught at the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies since 2012. Amongst her recent publications are “Always Hearing Voices, Never Hearing Mine’: ‘Sound and Fury in The Snake Pit” in Recovering 1940s Horror Cinema (2014) and “Horror and the Last Frontier: Monstrous Borders and Bodies” in Firefly and Westworld.” Joss Whedon vs. the Horror Tradition: The Production of Genre in Buffy and Beyond(2019).
A lecturer in popular/visual culture and sexuality studies at Concordia University, she has been involved in teaching their interdisciplinary course on HIV/AIDS for more than a decade and has served as the Director of the university’s HIV/AIDS Community Lecture Series.
Info on the lecture is below.
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – NYC – Blood Born: The Horror of AIDSDate: February 26th 2019
Venue: Film Noir Cinema
Address: 122 Meserole, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Prices: $12 advance / $15 on the door / $50 Full semester pass
About the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies:Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is an international organization that offers university-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses for people of all ages, founded by film writer and programmer Kier-La Janisse in March 2010, with regular branches in London, New York and L.A. as well as presenting special events worldwide. The New York branch is co-run by Joe Yanick of Yellow Veil Pictures and filmmaker Jacqueline Castel.